We had our first experience of Greek hospitals a few weeks ago. In fact in one day Ken visited the dentist, doctor then hospital!
The local hospital in Kalamata is much smaller than we were used to in the UK. Our visit was because Ken woke up one morning with and found the white of one eye was suddenly half red – it looked more serious than a single burst blood vessel so we wanted to get it checked out. Our local doctor was unable to do this, lacking the specialist equipment needed to make a thorough examination of the eye, so suggested we go on up to the hospital.
Accident and emergency always conjures up the image of a waiting area crowded with all manner of challenges, and a wait of many hours. So before setting off on the 40 minute drive to the hospital we fortified ourselves with toast and coffee, then packed refreshments and reading material and off we went. The first pleasant surprise was a car park with ample free spaces – and no charges.
For a hospital in a tourist area we were a little surprised to find there was no signage other than Greek, and our first mistake was to follow the sign for the emergency department, which turned out to be for motorists and took us on a walk halfway round the outside of the building. Once inside we asked for directions, which were given mostly in Greek as few of the administrative staff spoke English.
We quickly got lost, and our second set of directions sent us to the second floor, where we found ourselves in the ophthalmology department. But unfortunately the doctor wasn’t there, so we were redirected down to a clinic on the ground floor. This turned out to be just inside the entrance nearest the car park, so we’d managed to walk right through the building. We were directed to some chairs, and settled down to wait.
After a little while we decided to check we were in the right place, and that we didn’t need to check in anywhere. It was a good job we did – the eye clinic was just closing and the doctor was about to leave. We almost ended up waiting for the wrong type of doctor. But the clinic’s closing didn’t mean we were too late. We were directed back up to the second floor, where the same doctor appeared a few minutes later.
After a wait of maybe 10 minutes more Ken was seen, his eyes examined and the ‘all clear’ given. The whole visit was over more quickly than we had anticipated, and with much less fuss than we would have experienced in the UK. There was no form filling. In fact, all Ken was asked for was his name and age (medical records are not really kept by doctors here in Greece). And he didn’t need to produce his IKA book to prove his entitlement to treatment.
As a child I spent many hours in hospital eye departments, both as an outpatient and an inpatient. In the last few years I also visited hospital a few times, including an operation as a day patient. No-one likes the idea of visiting a hospital, but our experience so far suggests that a Greek experience would be no worse than – and perhaps better than – a UK one.
But we have no more plans to put this to the test!